Why Does The Breville Barista Express Still Stand Out Against Its Competitors?
I test and review coffee machines for a living, so I want to help you make the best choice on your next purchase. The Barista Express Bes870xl is indeed pricey, but if you’re looking for the absolute best, it’s worth the investment.
FYI, prices and ratings are accurate as of time of writing.
Breville Barista Express Espresso Machine BES870BSXL
Top-rated: 21,396 ratings
Highlight: Perfectly balanced taste.
Helpful review: "We have had the unit for 8 months now, it's been through 4 cleaning cycles (2 descaling, 2 normal backflow), so I've 'tested' out most of the possible functions it has. We like it, a lot. If it dies this year, it is probably a break-even so far based on the number of times we've used it vice buying from coffee shops. At $5 a cup, you have to buy at least 120 cups to even do a simple break-even. Of course, using milk/substitute and other items at home adds to this cost. Assume that you have to run 200 cups at home that you otherwise would have bought elsewhere, and you have basically done a break-even. If you drive to get to the coffee shop, and buy other things, then it may save you a lot of money sooner. In my opinion, this unit easily costs less than what we would have done within a year.
The grinder seems to do a great job, and the dials to alter the size and amount, work well. I have had to clean it once since the grinds seemed to be working poorly, on Breville's recommendation, running rice through the unit, and then cleaning it (removing the screw from the top), helped.
We have not tried other machines, having been satisfied with the reviews, and price, of this one as listed. So far, just great results. We tend to do espresso drinks each time, meaning we use the grinder, frother, and espresso for each drink. The machine would likely last longer with less maintenance needed if you just did espresso, and used preground beans (or had a separate grinder), most likely.
Family of 2 (with kid), in general we probably push through 4-6 cups a day on average, and up to 9 max at times. If we have guests, maybe 10-12, but not often. While we would certainly have NOT been buying this many from the local brewhouse, the quality of the product is just great.
We choose to use almond milk exclusively as our base, and we make it ourselves, so the quality of the milk will never be that of the rich and creamy milk frothed up, but it is still amazing.
This machine does a great job of grinding, pushing hot water, and frothing, so we get a cup that literally is as good as we ever had anywhere, and with the quality we want. Most coffee shops, when they do have milk substitutes, use poor quality almond milk anyhow, and it affects the taste. If you haven't tried making your own almond milk, it's extremely easy - don't bother unless you buy good almonds from Spain or California. Soak them (called sprouting), then blend 1 cup almonds to 4 cups milk. Then strain through a nut milk bag (or cheesecloth), and add 2-3TB honey, vanilla bean, pinch salt, cinnamon). Blend. Some folks have gently heated the almond milk on a stove which helps thicken it a bit, and actually makes it more of a milk consistency than the 'almond juice' that you get by just straining. Lots of different options, and chefs are still coming up with ways to handle this. But frankly, after doing the almond milk thing, we will not use anything else. Some folks also add some coconut creme to the mix, and it also thickens things a bit. There are excellent non dairy and healthy alternatives out there, and they work shockingly well.
We also pretty much gave up on buying beans from local brewhouses. We found the quality and taste not as good as we could do ourselves, so off we went and bought a small roaster (Fresh Roast SR700 Home Coffee Roaster), and frankly, this make the cycle complete - not only can we buy green coffee beans via amazon very cheaply, but we can also control how much we roast, and when we use them, making it a very turnkey and enjoyable experience. I advise also buying the Knockbox from Breville - this is a great add on and helps you control the waste from the Portafilter. Great tool/wastebasket, and helps you inadvertently throw your grinds into the drain, not good if you have a septic system either!!
Use fresh beans, and consider roasting your own. The best bean we've found so far is the Colombian Huila (also sold on Amazon.com) - 5lb bag for $30 shipped. For about $6 a pound, you will have plenty of opportunity to find the roast level you want. Reason we like this particular bean (other than being available on amazon.com), when roasted to near or after second crack, it has a nice caramel/chocolate aftertaste to it. Not a bean expert here, but we've tried a dozen or so varieties, and for the price and availability, this is a really well priced and nice tasting bean.
As mentioned before, we've done the local brewhouse roasted beans, and it's basically Russian roulette, and we've yet to find an 'awesome' tasting bean from them. The Breville has a multiple of ways you can alter the taste by changing the temperature, grind, and amount of water through the bean, but some beans just aren't suited for espresso, it seems. I'll let the experts deal with that - once we find one that is suitable, we work more on the base taste, which is mostly affected by the milk/milk substitute that you use, unless you are just doing straight shots of espresso.
We like the machine so much, it's worth considering taking with you on travel if you have the power, and way to store your own milk at your location. And yes, we've been at places with in-room espresso machines like the Ritz (which has in-room espresso from Nespresso), in places that have full kitchens with a variety of machines, and even at club level places that have fully automatic machines. We continue to be underwhelmed with the quality and taste. Yes, we've been in Italy and had the best espresso/cappuccino's, and they can't be beaten due to the location, ambiance, etc... But this machine does a bang up job of that without the expense of travel, lol:)
Frankly, Breville has provided a cost point and quality machine that is hard to beat. Other than my calling for help on a small grind question/issue, I have had no service issues yet. I guess there is also a warranty you can buy through Amazon, that goes up to 4 years, so that may be an option to keep it running longer... and have cost savings for many years to come." — Garry C.
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